Thirteen years after Finding Nemo hit theaters, Pixar returns with the sequel to one of 2003’s best films, Finding Dory. Upon researching some of the back story behind Finding Dory, director of both films, Andrew Stanton stated that he was not even considering a sequel. He felt the story was done and quite frankly, needed a break from the fish and water. Wall-E was another classic film from director Stanton, but the we were served John Carter. John Carter was a live action film based on the story by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The film was a disaster. One of the all time biggest bombs in Hollywood history. Some even thought that with the utter failure of John Carter, Andrew Stanton was on the way out. Thankfully, he returns to fine form with Finding Dory.
Finding Dory tells the story of a Blue Tang fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who has short term memory loss. She befriended Marlin (Albert Brooks) in Finding Nemo and now has taken up residence in the same watery home in the deep blue sea. That is until she starts to have flashbacks of her own family and decides to venture out and find them. Marlin and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) tag along to help. Their journey takes them to a wild marine institute that captures Dory and is ready to ship her off to Cleveland, never to be seen from again. Actually, it is another institute for rare marine life.
Finding Dory is not as fresh as Finding Nemo from 2003, but that is not really an issue, for the most part. Yes, the story is simplistically another version of the first film, but Stanton knows what we look for in a Pixar film. Finding Dory jumps off of the screen with lush and gorgeous visuals. Everything is crisp and gloriously vivid. In some scenes the visuals are so good that there were certain images that almost looked real and alive. The technical acumen from Pixar is simply the best in the business, bar none.
The story of Finding Dory is not horribly original but Stanton handles the story in a fresh way, giving us new characters that are fresh and interesting voiced by some terrific voice overs like Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ed O’Niell, Idris Elba, Dominc West and Kaitlin Olson (no, not an Olsen family member). The voice talent in both of these films are excellent. Each performer really seems to be having a lot of fun with these characters and it comes through on screen. There is a lot of fun in Finding Dory, but there is also an important message about family and the crucial role it plays in everyone’s lives. the message is sweet and heartfelt throughout Finding Dory and never becomes overdone. Stanton who also co-wrote the script with Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson and Angus MacLane know how far to drive the message home, so to speak, without the film becoming preachy or overbearing. This is a simple and sweet film about friends, family and how the two can intertwine in anyone’s life as they usually do.
The script is also packed with a lot of laughs and some truly hilarious moments that will appeal to children and adults, so worry not, parents. There is plenty to keep you interested here, too. Thomas Newman returns to provide another Oscar worthy score with some of the prettiest music he has composed to date. His music is such an important part of these films, they would not be the same without his genius of composing. The fact that he has never won an Oscar, despite being nominated so many times, I quit counting after receiving ten nominations and always going home empty handed, at the end of the night. He will win, one day and hopefully we will both be alive to see it.
The climax of Finding Dory, though is a bit far fetched, even for an animated Disney film. Now, before I get volumes of hate mail, let me explain. It is a cute climax, but a bit stretched on logic. After all, we are expected to believe that an Octopus can open doors and drive trucks. It seemed a bit contrived and not as fresh as it could have been. In Finding Nemo, the ending was a lot closer to the story line than it is here in Finding Dory. Having said that, I still liked the climax of Finding Dory, I just thought they could have tweaked it a bit. But even so, there is a big laugh involving fish hurtling through the air, so it is not a total loss.
Finding Dory is wonderful family film and though it might not be as fresh as its predecessor, it still is a remarkable achievement from Pixar and Andrew Stanton. It is funny, sweet, poignant, sad and clever and immensely enjoyable, regardless of your age. Ellen DeGeneres is wonderful as Dory as well as Albert Brooks as the voice of Marlin. These two have great chemistry and I would love to see them in a live action film, one day. It would be comic gold. My hat is off to Pixar, as well. Simply the best in the business for animated family films.
Finding Dory – **** out of 5
Finding Dory – Rated PG for scenes of scary marine life, mild violence, scenes of peril
Finding Dory – Run Time is 98 minutes
Finding Dory is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services.